News that Polaris Industries is shutting down the manufacture of its Victory motorcycles is roiling the small but loyal group of Victory owners across the U.S. Yet, in a way, it comes as no surprise. It’s hard to find a Victory dealer when you’re out on the road. Polaris never really made owning a Victory a cult thing.
I have spent many hours in motorcycle dealerships, selling and signing my books. What impressed me most was the way Harley-Davidson not only enforces its brand, but encourages it. Walk into a Victory dealer, and you may encounter a jacket or two, some motor oil and some T-shirts. The motorcycles may share space with ATVs, snowmobiles or other motorcycle brands. Walk into a Harley dealer, and it’s all Harley. H-D clothing, motor oil, bar stools, drinkware — that Harley-Davidson shield is on everything! If there is a competing bike brand on the showroom floor, it’s probably been traded in for a Harley.
Two summers ago, we attended the national rally of the Victory Motorcycle Club in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Our Victory, a 2002 Deluxe Touring Cruiser, was easily the oldest of the thousands of bikes parked at the hotel. There was a distinct “underdog” camaraderie among the riders. We all knew Victory motorcycles were good. But, like car-rental firm Avis used to say in its advertising, there was also a feeling of “We Try Harder.” We all wondered what Polaris’ acquisition of the Indian brand would mean.
And now we know. Indian will once again go head-to-head with Polaris, and Victory will be no more. Indian will still have long way to go to take market share from H-D. Even if the Victory dealerships are replaced with Indian dealerships, they will still be too few and far between. Which is why we traded our Victory last summer for a Harley Road King. Harley dealers are much easier to find when you’re a long way from home.
“Highway to Hell” blasted out of the speakers of a Victory Magnum motorcycle and ricocheted off the walls of the Minneapolis Convention Center on Sunday morning, certainly a different message than what I would have heard at church! My husband and I went downtown to the Progressive International Motorcycle Show to sniff the 2015 bikes and mingle with the leather-jacket crowd.
IMS is all about the bikes. There’s something there for every adrenaline-addicted speed demon from sporty Ducatis to heavy-duty Harley cruisers. Even if you’re like me and don’t have a motorcycle endorsement on your driver’s license, it’s fun to thow a leg over and get a driver’s perspective.
It annoys me that so many really cool-looking bikes are not built to accommodate women riders. After all, women now make up 25 percent of the motorcycle market, and it’s growing. It’s frustrating to find a bike that looks like it’s just my size, only to find out it’s too tall, or the gas tank is so wide it threatens to crack my pelvis like turkey wishbone. C’mon, motorcycle engineers! Do something for the ladies!
The next show in the Twin Cities area is the Motorcylce Life Expo at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., Feb. 28-Mar. 1. While IMS is all about the bikes, MLE is about what you do with your motorcycle after you’ve acquired it. That includes not just customization, but places to ride. If you want to expand your horizons beyond Sturgis, South Dakota, it’s the show to visit. It runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. both days. I’ll be there, hawking copies of Ride Minnesota.
“Got your Harley out yet, Karen?” I asked my neighbor yesterday afternoon. She has a beautiful blue Softail. “No. The snow has to be completely gone and all the sand swept up before I ride,” she replied.
Mother Nature put the damper on the start of the motorcycle season here in Minnesota last week. On Thursday, she dumped 8 inches of wet, heavy snow on the Twin Cities and more in rural areas. It’s enough to make you scream. By suppertime yesterday, the temperature had climbed to 62 degrees and there were only a few humps of snow left around the neighborhood — if you don’t count the shady sides of houses and the hard, black-crusted mountains stacked in parking lots, vacant lots and just about anywhere anyone can think of to pile large quantities of unwanted snow.
My neighbor is not alone in her caution. Yet there are motorcyclists out on the streets and highways, dodging potholes and braving sandy intersections because they just. can’t. wait. any. longer. Motorcycle fever has set in. The desire to feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair (or across your helmet) is irresistable, urgent. On weekends, the dealerships are crowded with people checking out new bikes, buying new clothing. Some are even picking up copies of Ride Minnesota.
I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of tourism materials from Wisconsin so Ralph and I can plan some summer rides. In the meantime, our great-niece in California has sent us a Flat Stanley. After reading the book in school, she has sent him to us so that we can bring him along on some adventures. If he’s lucky, Flat Stanley will get to ride on Uncle Ralph’s Victory some time this week.